Burger King and skating shoes: Family motivates Sac State kicker

Kyle Sentkowski’s journey to becoming the most prolific kicker in school history


Dominique Williams

(L-R) Gene and Kyle Sentkowski stand together outside of the Sac State Broad Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2022. Sentkowski is the school record holder for most field goals in a single season with 21.

Jack Freeman and Arely Duran

On a football field in Washington, a 17-year old Keith Sentkowski asks his father, Gene, if the family can have Burger King for dinner. Gene agrees on one condition, if Keith can hit a 50-yard field goal with three tries.

Keith tries and misses all three times, when an 11-year old Kyle Sentkowski tugs on his father’s shirt and asks if there’s anything he can do to get Burger King for dinner. Once again, Gene obliges, betting the younger Sentkowski he can’t hit a 30-yard field goal.

Sure enough, Kyle sailed it through the uprights from 30 yards out.

“Next thing I know I’m on the phone with my wife asking ‘What do you want from Burger King?’” Gene said. “She said ‘Why are we getting dinner from Burger King?’ I replied ‘Because I was dumb enough to place a bet with your son.’”

Just two years later, Gene and Kyle found themselves out on a field again. This time, Kyle wants skating shoes off eBay. 

“You’re going to have to earn them,” Gene said. “If you can knock a 40-yard field goal with an adult size football, one shot, I’ll buy them for you.” 

So Kyle teed up the ball again, and kicked it through the uprights.

“That was the last time I placed a bet on him, I know better than that now,” Gene said. “I should have known better the first time!” 

Kyle, now a senior at Sacramento State, was challenged and supported by those close to him who understood the position of being a kicker. 

“[My dad] is the one that kind of pushed us a little bit to do it,” Kyle said. “I started kicking in the fourth grade because my brother was kicking in high school. He was motivated to do it because my dad used to kick back in high school.”

Sac State senior kicker Kyle Sentkowski watches his kick split the uprights against Richmond on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Hornet Stadium. Sentkowski’s 18 successful field goals this season are the second most in school history, behind only himself. (Dominique Williams)

Sentkowski started his college career at the College of Siskiyous located in Weed, California. 

“I went to a JUCO, which is kind of more northern,” Kyle said. “I love Northern California, it was a lot warmer up here than in Washington,.”

After two seasons, Kyle transferred to Sac State where he is majoring in psychology with ambition to pursue his football career after college. 

Kyle said his favorite moment at Sac State playing football was winning three Big Sky Championships. 

“Winning the Big Sky is always pretty fun, you know, people rushing the field,” Kyle said. . “Those are probably my favorite times so far.” 

Like many others, Kyle said he gets nervous before a kick, but always keeps a strong mindset and stays in the moment while he tries for a field goal. 

Sentkowski said his success during his kicking career keeps him reaching towards his NFL dreams. 

“I think just my success kind of keeps me motivated because I keep feeling like I’m doing everything right,” Kyle said. 

Jay Dodd, Kyle’s coach at Blaine High School, and current running backs coach at the College of the Siskiyous, Charlie Roche, have helped Kyle become disciplined in football.

“I would say [Dodd and Roche] kind of built me to be a guy that makes no excuses,” Kyle said.

Kyle was named first team All-Big Sky in 2021 and an All-American by Stats Perform. He set a record for single-season field goals and points in 2021. As of this year, he hit his career-long field goal of 53 yards. 

“I feel a lot of pride, I see how hard he works,” Gene said. “He’s a really driven kid and it’s neat to see the results and pay off.”

While Gene said he loves his son performing well on the big stage Sac State has provided him, there is a lot of stress involved.

“Watching your kids [kick] is worse than doing it yourself,” Gene said. “It’s nerve racking at times, I felt physically drained after last week’s game against Richmond.”

Cal McGough, a freshman punter for the Hornets, said Sentkowski’s determination has stuck with him and his fellow teammates. 

“I think it’s just his work ethic, the way he always stays on task,” McGough said. “You don’t see this guy really making a mistake and if he does, he won’t make it again.”

After Sac State football’s 66-63 loss to Incarnate Word, Kyle’s college career has come to a close. He finishes as the school single-season record holder in extra points made, field goals made and tied for field goal percentage. He also ranks sixth all-time in points scored as a Hornet.